Guest Bloggers Starting Next WeekJune 27th, 2008
Dwight Nelson will continue his blog at the end of August. Check here next week for posts from guest bloggers.
After his sudden death last Friday, he’s become larger than life.June 21st, 2008
After his sudden death last Friday, he’s become larger than life. And I for one miss him. I didn’t know Tim Russert, of course. But every Sunday morning I have timed my 10K run to end just as his “Meet the Press” was beginning. And for a few sweaty moments with my Sunday paper and breakfast, I would listen in on the celebrated journalist’s gentlemanly grilling of another public figure or two or three. “If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press” was my preference, too.
And, as it turns out, millions of Americans enjoyed the same weekly ritual. The accolades for Russert continue to pour in. What made this man so “familiar” with the public, and so beloved by his friends? What can those who “knew” him learn from his life? I sat down last Sunday and scribbled some random reflections.
Live the joy of your life to the full each day. I was amazed at how many of his colleagues and acquaintances testified to the contagious exuberance with which Russert lived. He loved his work. He loved his work associates, from the veterans to the rookies in the Washington bureau. And he exuded it. What if we all did?
Keep in touch with your roots and your family. Much has been made about his loyalty to the blue-collar neighborhood of Buffalo where he grew up. His best-selling book about his dad continues to speak volumes about Russert’s love for those dearest to him. And what’s so obvious is that Tim made certain his affections were obvious, too. On-air and off-air. On the phone to his boy two or three times a day. Everyone loved him for it.
Celebrate the lives of your friends and acquaintances. If he knew you, and you were having a baby or surgery or mourning a loss, Russert was there to share the journey. Scribbled notes, little gifts, a visit, a phone call—apparently he made sure those he cared about knew he cared. What’s not to like about that?
Do your homework. Russert was renowned for his early Sunday morning rehearsals alone in the studio. He read his questions aloud, imagined his guest’s responses, planned his rebuttal queries. He didn’t tolerate a lack of preparedness in his guest or himself.
Mentor the young. I was intrigued at how many of television’s well-known reporters cut their eye teeth under Russert’s tutelage. He invested time and attention in the new team members, constantly exhorting them to pursue excellence.
Share your devotion to your God and your church. The whole world knew Tim Russert was a faithful Roman Catholic. He didn’t keep it a secret. It was clear he was proud to be a member of his church, and unashamed to display his faith in God. True, he wasn’t an evangelical missionary. Yet in the world of hardball politics and journalism, Russert lived his faith. Would that there were more of him these days, wouldn’t you agree?
Was he a saint? Hardly. But in a world where so many live such isolated and self-serving lives, here was a man who is being remembered for the very opposite. And in the eyes of God, isn’t that a value heaven celebrates, too?
The word that stumped him was “quaquaversal.”June 21st, 2008
The word that stumped him was “quaquaversal.” How these kids survive as long as they do in the Scripps National Spelling Bee is beyond me! Ten-year-old Tony Incorvati of Ohio made it to the third round a few days ago, until he ran into that amalgamation lurking in the bowels of some dusty dictionary. And no matter how hard he squinted, it wouldn’t come out right.
Quaquaversal—“turning and dipping in every direction.” And while it won’t become a household word, it certainly is an appropriate one to describe life on this planet of late, isn’t it? Just when you think one crisis headline is tucked away and taken care of, the very next news cycle dips and turns, introducing yet another breaking story from somewhere else on earth. And while admittedly the news media hype disasters and major in crises, nevertheless the “talking heads” seem perplexed over the crescendo of these breaking headlines: tomatoes, oil, gasoline, floods, Wall Street, Greece, the Middle East—the “quaquaversal” collection from just this week, to name a few.
Someone asked me the other day if all of this amounted to a harbinger, a collective alert regarding earth’s disintegrating future. And at the same time, someone else wrote and wondered if there is any point wondering if it did. Actually doesn’t the Second Law of Thermodynamics itself predict such disintegration? Known as the principle of entropy, you might remember from high school physics, this law describes the entropy or break-down of energy in the universe, resulting in increasing disorder and eventual disintegration. Is our earth on some sort of entropic path?
Isaiah was an ancient prophet, not a physicist, and yet tucked near the end of his prophecy is a line that describes such entropy. “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment” (Isaiah 51:6). Growing old like a garment, tearing at its ecological seams, ripping at its geological faults and plates. Is that what the headlines pronounce? Our planet’s entropy?
But to the thinking man or woman of faith, isn’t there more than thermodynamics behind this litany of “quaquaversal” headlines? After all, didn’t Christ himself predict global entropy? Didn’t he link the promise of his return in Matthew 24 with a growing disintegration in nature (see vv 7, 29, 32), in politics (v 6) and in morality (vv 4, 9-12)? But rather than ending with a whimpering depletion of energy, Jesus predicts in the end an explosion of light and energy in his physical return to earth—“and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power [Greek: “dynamite”] and great glory” (v 30).
So are we doomed by the headlines? Hardly! In fact, the greater the entropy around us the deeper the certainty can grow within us that the God who has called us friends will journey with us until that grand climax: “See, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Which means that no matter how “quaquaversal” the journey may yet become, we’ll never be alone—which is the greatest headline of all!
History was made Tuesday nightJune 4th, 2008
History was made Tuesday night, when Barack Obama was declared the winner of the Democratic presidential primaries, thus becoming the first African American to be nominated for President of the United States by a major political party. And given the painful history of race relations in this country, Americans of all parties, races and faiths surely hope this is a harbinger of better days to come.
Which, of course, is not to suggest that the five month electoral journey to November 4 that Obama and John McCain now begin will be a love-fest of political or national unity. Being the earthy reality that it is, it is unlikely the American political process will become a model of decorum and civility.
The question is: How should we who are followers of Jesus Christ relate to the politics and political processes of this electoral season? Surprisingly enough, Romans 13 offers three still relevant guiding principles for the citizens of any nation on earth, all of which are pertinent for the presidential election ahead.
First of all, Paul declares that human governments practice a derived authority from God himself. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1 NIV). I.e., followers of Christ are also citizens of earth, and as such we are under obligation to live peacefully under governmental authority.
Secondly, Paul admonishes: “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7 NKJV). And that counsel certainly would include “votes to whom votes are due.” Following Christ neither prevents nor precludes the Christian’s obligation to participate in the electoral process of the land. Both our taxes and our votes are due to Caesar, and we must render them.
And how shall we render our participation in the political process? Romans 13’s third principle is pertinent. “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10 NKJV). Like every other campaign, this one is sure to be infused with heated rhetoric, angry rebuttals, and uncivil recriminations—and all of that from the supporters of the candidates! The follower of Christ lives by a higher standard. Irrespective of our political persuasions, we must live out Jesus’ self-sacrificing, others-deferring love and compassion. “He must increase; I must decrease” is a doomed political mantra, but it is the quintessence of selflessness. Through the followers of Christ love can triumph over the most political of processes and mean-spirited of campaigns.
In this season of uncertain history, let us model Christ’s love for all in the face of divisiveness, his abiding humility in the face of ego and rancor, and his peaceful trust in the One who sits above all political processes. And let us pray his prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.